Google Fiber Coming to Chapel Hill And Carrboro

100 times faster Internet service: that’s the aim of Google Fiber, which is bringing ultra-fast Internet to the Triangle.

“We are bringing Google Fiber to the Triangle,” exclaimed Michael Slinger, Business and Operations Director for Google Fiber during a press conference on Tuesday afternoon at Research Triangle Park. The press conference included Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, Durham Mayor Bill Bell and Governor Pat McCrory.

Chapel Hill and Carrboro are among only a handful of communities in the nation to have this service.

Slinger says bringing Google Fiber to the Triangle has taken time and plenty of cooperation from local officials.

“Today, we are committing to invest in, and build, a brand new fiber optic network throughout Carrboro, Cary, Chapel Hill, Durham, Garner, Morrisville and Raleigh,” he said. “Last year, we began working with these cities to explore the possibility of bringing a superfast Internet and TV service to their residents and small businesses. The local leaders rose to the challenge.”

Listen to the full press conference, with comments from Slinger as well as Raleigh mayor Nancy McFarlane and Durham mayor Bill Bell.


In order to provide the service, Slinger said Google officials will spend the next few months working to run thousands of miles of fiber from Carrboro to Garner.

“Building a brand new fiber optic network takes time,” he said. “It’s going to take hundreds of construction crews and hundreds of installers. Their task will be to lay enough fiber to reach from here to London and back.”

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt spoke with Aaron Keck on WCHL about what Tuesday’s announcement means for Chapel Hill.


Along with Chapel Hill, Google also announced a faster broadband for Carrboro, Durham, Cary, Morrisville and Raleigh. Google has had an office in Chapel Hill since its acquisition of Skia Incorporated in 2005. Last year, the team opened an office on Franklin Street.

Currently three U.S. cities can boast about having Google Fiber: Provo, Utah; Kansas City; and Austin, Texas. Charlotte, Atlanta and Nashville are also included in the Google Fiber expansion.

The full statement from the Town of Chapel Hill is below:

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt along with Council Members and Town officials announced today (Tuesday, Jan. 27) that Google, Inc., is bringing its 100x faster Internet connectivity — Google Fiber — to Chapel Hill, making the community among a handful in the nation to have this service.

“Google Fiber has chosen Chapel Hill to advance its latest technologies, which is an honor and a promise about our community’s capacity as a tech and innovation hub,” Mayor Kleinschmidt said. “As a community of creative minds and innovators, we can’t wait to show the amazing things we will do with a gig.”

Currently, three U.S. cities can boast about having Google Fiber — Provo, Utah; Kansas City, Kansas/Missouri; and Austin. Along with announcing its selection of Chapel Hill for a new fiber future, Google also has selected faster broadband for Carrboro, Cary, Durham, Garner, Morrisville and Raleigh.

Improving broadband speed and choice for Chapel Hill residents has been a priority for years. When Google announced that it was accepting applications for Google Fiber technology in 2010, Chapel Hill was among the 1,100 communities that applied. Google Inc. has had an office in Chapel Hill since its acquisition of Skia Inc. in 2005. Last year, the team opened an office on Franklin Street that has played host to several community events and interns from local universities.

Google Fiber is Google’s Gigabit Internet service that offers Internet connection speeds for homes and businesses up to 100 times faster than today’s average broadband, as well as TV service with hundreds of high-definition channels. Today’s average American broadband speed is 11.5 Megabits per second. In contrast, Google Fiber will bring Chapel Hill residents access to “Gigabit” Internet connections up to 1,000 Megabits per second.

“We are here because of the hard work, passion and commitment of the town and its leaders,” said Kevin Lo, Director of Business Operations for Google Fiber. “The next chapter of the Internet will be written at gigabit speeds. These new networks will lay the foundation for a wave of innovation and economic growth. Chapel Hill is the perfect place to show us what’s possible, and we can’t wait to see what Chapel Hill will do with Fiber.”

Google will be working closely with Chapel Hill on the next steps to build a brand new fiber-optic network capable of delivering these gigabit speeds throughout Chapel Hill. The next stage of work includes designing and planning a new fiber-optic network down to a very detailed level. After this process, which will take several months, Google Fiber and Chapel Hill will begin constructing the network.

High-speed Internet will provide bandwidth that benefits business, education and health care in Chapel Hill. The one-gigabit-per-second speed will work to accelerate Chapel Hill’s burgeoning tech hub that includes Launch Chapel Hill, a start-up accelerator on Rosemary Street, 1789 Venture Lab on East Franklin Street, and UNC-Chapel Hill, which ranks among the top 10 research universities in the country. Aiding the movement of ideas from university labs to the commercial marketplace is the Carolina Research Venture Fund, which supports startups with a research focus.

What’s next? Google Fiber needs to build thousands of miles of fiber throughout Chapel Hill. They take all of the information submitted during the planning process to create a comprehensive plan for building the fiber network. The design helps enable Google Fiber to do construction more efficiently and smoothly. Some concrete steps they will take during this next phase:

- use the infrastructure data that the town has shared to create a map of where they can put fiber (e.g. existing utility poles, conduit) and areas to avoid (e.g. water, sewer and electric lines), as well as the most efficient sequence of construction.

- a team of surveyors and engineers hits the streets to fill in any missing details. You may see crews out doing detailed surveying work — lots of staring up at poles and even a bit of geological rock-testing.

- they take this information back to the office and create detailed network design maps, do work with the Town to locate network infrastructure and fiber huts, and start to prepare permitting packages.

- then they design the network, street by street.

It will take some time before Google Fiber starts signups. In the next several months they will be working with Town staff to design the network. Once there is a detailed plan in place, they can begin initial construction. Sign up on their website ( to receive updates.

For more information about community broadband in Chapel Hill, visit

Chapel Hill Holds MLK March

Among events across the nation celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was a rally and march held in Chapel Hill.

As the sun rose higher in the Carolina blue sky on Monday morning, hundreds came out to the post office on Franklin Street to take part in the march and rally to honor Dr. King and continue spreading his message.

Standing on the steps of the post office, Madrid Smith – a first-year student and psychology major at UNC – gave a speech about the obstacles that still stand in the way of a community battling racism.

“We’re seeing issues of race being brought up that aren’t new,” he says. “They’ve just been unresolved.”

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt was in attendance at the march. He says it is wonderful to see young people in the community getting involved.

“We all hope that there’s a generation in the future, who will wake up and not be burdened with issues of racism, sexism, [and] homophobia,” he says. “They’re going to have equal opportunity.

“For young people to realize that work needs to be maintained and continue to expand into the future, provides hope that generation will wake up and be provided those opportunities.”

Orange County Commissioner Mark Dorosin – who was also at the rally – says the event was rejuvenating.

“It was absolutely faith restoring,” he says. “As was said by the speaker, understanding the challenges that we face now: from institutionalized racism and discrimination, how we need to be aware of that, and engage that. It was inspiring.”

Those at the event made their way from the post office, down Franklin St. – chanting along the way – before assembling in First Baptist Church.

There was singing, dancing in the aisle, and prayer at the ceremony. Michelle Laws, Executive Director of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, also spoke at the event. Laws was happy to see the diverse crowd of those who are taking part in the day’s celebrations.

“There are those of us who come because this is the place where the Lord restores our strength,” he says. “And restores our joy. And strengthens our faith. After we have been battered on the battlefield for justice.”

Laws says the Moral Movement will not back down from the pressure they have put on lawmakers. She adds there is strength in numbers, as the movement spreads to new areas.

On the day celebrating the life, legacy, and message brought forward 50 years ago by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the overriding theme was that there remains more work to do.

Varsity Theatre Meets Kickstarter Goal

The Varsity Theatre tweeted out on Wednesday evening that they met their $50,000 Kickstarter goal.

With these funds the Chapel Hill staple will be able to upgrade one theatre to digital operation from 35mm film and continue operation. You can still donate to the cause through the Kickstarter page. The owners of the Varsity have said that any money raised above their goal would go toward renovating their second theatre.

Young Democrat Convention Coming to Chapel Hill

Young democrats across the Tar Heel state will be migrating to Chapel Hill for their annual convention this year.

The teen, college, and young democrats announced, earlier this week, they would hold their 2015 convention in Chapel Hill.

Chapel Hill Town Council Member Lee Storrow says this event is an opportunity to lay a path for the Democratic Party’s movement going forward.

“It’s a great opportunity to bring folks together from across the state,” he says, “to think strategically, plan, and network about the work that needs to be done to move our state forward.”

Storrow represents the Town of Chapel Hill on the Board of the Orange County Visitor’s Bureau, and he says the convention will afford the town an opportunity to prove it has the resources and capability to host an event this size.

“I’m really excited, as a community, about the work that the visitor’s bureau is doing,” he says. “Tourism is a clean form of economic development: people come to the community, spend a lot of money, and then they leave.”

Storrow says he expects the meeting to bring a couple of hundred visitors to Chapel Hill – adding if the town successfully houses this convention, it will be very helpful in recruiting another mid-size event in the years to come.

He says the convention will serve as a chance for democrats to define the message they want to send voters, especially in light of the 2014 elections that saw many democrats lose to their conservative counterparts across the state and nation.

Storrow was quick to point out that, as elections nationally didn’t go the democrat’s way, many local elections did fall in their favor, including races for Wake County Commissioner.
While taking full control of the County Commissioner positions in Orange, Durham, and Wake Counties, democrats still struggled to hit the mark with their message in rural North Carolina. Storrow says this is an area where his fellow democrats need to improve.

“The Democratic Party has always stood for public investment: an investment in working families, investment in education, investment in a transportation system that can bring people closer together,” he says.

“I think that’s a message that’s relevant across the state.”

The young democrat’s convention will be held March 27 through 29 and will be based out of the Sheraton Chapel Hill on Europa Drive.

A full schedule of events for the convention and registration is available on the convention’s website.

Fire Overnight in Chapel Hill Office Park

The Chapel Hill Fire Department was on the scene of a fire Wednesday morning.

The fire was at 920 Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard, in a small office park.

Battalion Chief Jeff Cabe says the owners of a dentist office came in to open up and were greeted by a large amount of smoke.

“By the time we were dispatched and we got on scene, there was a lot of smoke left in the building,” he says. “The damage was pretty significant throughout the main portions of the hallway and the building. But the fire was out.”

Cabe says that is an unusual scenario: for a fire to have, apparently, burned itself out by the time the fire department is called.

He adds the cold weather likely did not play a factor in the fire.

“I would think weather probably didn’t have anything to do with it, based on the nature of where the fire [was]; the fire was in the center of the building,” he says. “My guess is, because it’s the heating season, that when the fire started it shut the heating system down.”

Cabe says the heating system shutting off would have cut off the main supply of air to the fire.

The battalion chief adds fire marshals were investigating the scene, as of Wednesday morning, and were working to determine the cause and origin of the fire.

“With it being a fire that burned itself out, it may take a little bit longer,” he says. “That’s sort of an unusual situation.”

No injuries were reported in the fire.

Water Main Break Diverts Traffic in Chapel Hill

UPDATE: The water main was repaired and operating normally early Wednesday afternoon, according to OWASA.

OWASA crews were working on a water main break Wednesday morning, according to Chapel Hill officials. The break closed McMasters Street and diverted traffic away from McMasters and Church Street.

As of last update, there was no estimated time when the road will be reopened.

Freezing Rain May Lead to Slippery Commute Wednesday

Winter has officially settled in across the Tar Heel state, and our area is no exception. After seeing heavy rain early Monday morning, temperatures have fallen and led to the possibility of some icing as we continue through the week.

The National Weather Service has issued alerts – including a Winter Weather Advisory for Orange County and a Winter Storm Watch for Durham and Wake Counties – that will go into effect late Tuesday and remain through mid-day Wednesday.

NWS Meteorologist Shawna Coakley says Tuesday we expect to have lingering drizzle, but the real problems may develop late Tuesday night into Wednesday morning.

“We’ll have temperatures right within a few degrees of freezing, and that brings with it a chance of freezing rain,” she says.

Coakley says we are not expected to see major accumulation, but “certainly you could get some glazing on surfaces. And you might see some difficulty with travel on roadways and walking on sidewalks.”

Coakley adds the chance of inclement weather will be rather widespread.

“We’re looking at the whole area for this, the entirety of central North Carolina,” she says.

The Wednesday morning commute may be a slippery one, if the variables of the forecast develop over the next 24 hours.

After that, Coakley says the temperatures will climb above freezing for the foreseeable future and the chance of rain will diminish to close out the week – taking any chance of inclement weather with it.

Chapel Hill Mayor: “Tough Decisions” Coming on Transit System Sustainability

Chapel Hill town leaders are being forced to get creative when looking at options to maintain transit services that are offered.

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt says the town is faced with a very clear problem.

“We need to come up with and develop a financial sustainability system for our transit system,” he says.

The solution to that problem, however, may not be as cut and dry.

At the last Chapel Hill Town Council meeting, a town-hired firm delivered the expected news that the state’s second-largest transit system, as it stands, is not sustainable in the long-term picture.

That firm listed five options to bridge the gap to a solution: passing a tax to raise money for area transit, reducing services, charging a bus fare, choosing an option other than purchasing buses outright, and the bus system partners – the Town of Chapel Hill, Town of Carrboro, and UNC – all contributing more funding.

Addressing these issues, Mayor Kleinschmidt says charging a fare for buses may have a negative impact.

“Fare-free buses don’t work for every community,” he says. “But it works really well here, because of the unique partnership we have with the Town of Carrboro and the university – particularly the student body.”

Kleinschmidt adds charging a fare would reduce ridership, which would eliminate the town’s eligibility for certain grants.

In terms of the partners in the transit system, the mayor says UNC has already been forced to make tough decisions.

“The university has already done some good work,” he says. “It doesn’t come without some tension. They’ve started charging people to park in park-and-ride [lots].”

Mayor Kleinschmidt says the student body may decide to increase their transit fee that is built into tuition. A fee the mayor says – to his knowledge – hasn’t been voted on since it was originally approved in 2000.

Kleinschmidt says the town’s tough decisions may involve reevaluating taxes.

“A couple of years ago we adjusted our transit tax rate,” he says. “That may need to happen again.”

But the mayor says he has always been proud of innovative paths town leaders and residents have navigated to find a solution.

With the transit system, that path may be looking at new options for purchasing buses.

“There are lease options,” Mayor Kleinschmidt says. “But we’ve not used them in the past. We’ve just purchased our buses, outright.”

All of the options that were suggested by the firm analyzing the system are still on the table with the town council. And the council has asked that the firm analyze each option further to help find a financial solution for the long-term viability of the transit system.

Cempra Clears Hurdle Toward FDA Approval

Chapel Hill-based drug developer Cempra has cleared a major hurdle toward FDA approval of an experimental drug that could work toward solving one of the biggest health issues worldwide.

Jason deBruyn, with the Triangle Business Journal, says the drug would work to treat one of the most commonly diagnosed bacterial infections in the world.

“[The treatment is] specifically for Community Acquired Bacterial Pneumonia,” he says. “It’s actually the number one cause of death from infection.”

deBruyn says this condition is diagnosed in 5 to 10 million new cases every year.

“It’s developed some antibiotic resistance,” he says. “The Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization have cited antibiotic resistance as the number one problem facing the world on a health care basis.”

deBruyn says the experimental drug has cleared one phase three trial, which is required to receive approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

He says positive phase three results mean the drug has made progress in treating a human subject with the disease. Cempra has another phase three trial underway currently.

If Cempra does receive approval, the Chapel Hill-based drug developer will likely hope this medication would serve as treatment for many other infections, according to deBruyn.

“If they receive approval from the FDA for their drug to treat that disease,” he says, “it’s very common for drug developers to see what else this could fight.”

Cempra is attempting to raise $140 million through stock offerings to continue funding their research.

deBruyn says approval from the FDA could still be more than a year away.

Area Schools Operating on a 2-Hour Delay for Thursday

Orange County Schools and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools will operate on a 2-hour delay for Thursday, January 8.

Temperatures overnight are forecasted to drop to 11 degrees, with a wind chill of -3 at 7 o’clock Thursday morning.

The National Weather Service has issued a wind-chill advisory until 10 o’clock Thursday morning.